After Plane Crash Injures Wife's Spine, Husband Turns Caregiver, Mirroring US Trend


Male Caregivers Can't Always Be Superman

But, a report from nonprofit Menstuff recommends that men who focus on the positive aspects, like renewed companionship with a loved one, can find caregiving easier.

Matthew Wolfson of Tiverton, R.I., has been caring for his girlfriend Constance "Consey" Beck since she was in a Vespa accident in 2007. She was a passenger on the scooter he was driving when it came too close to a taxi and spun out of control on a slippery road.

Matthew Wolfson has taken are of his girlfriend Constance Beck since she was in a scooter accident.

Wolfson said he never even considered not taking primary responsibility for her care. Beck was in a coma for eight weeks, with traumatic brain damage. But slowly, she has recovered most of her cognitive function.

"For me, it was learning I wasn't superman," he said. "And to help her become independent to reach out to others and make that contact on her own."

The 28-year-olds live in a handicapped-accessible apartment and he rarely leaves her side. Wolfson bathes Beck, does her hair and make-up, dresses her and manages her day.

For both of them, it can be "very isolating," without help from others. Wolfson also juggles her care with working part-time at a men's clothing store. As part of her therapy, Beck volunteers at an animal shelter.

"It's as much a lesson in how I take care of myself as taking care of another person I love so much," he said. "The biggest thing is you don't have to do this alone. You can't do it alone."

Wolfson moved his mother into an apartment down the hall so he and Beck have the support they each need. He also draws on his studies in philosophy and meditates.

But, as a man, he also had to learn some of the innate patience, nurturing and "active listening" that female caregivers do so well.

"Give me a problem, give me a treatise to write, we bang it out," said Wolfson. "In caregiving that approach doesn't always work -- using a cannon to swat a fly."

"There is also nothing emasculating about shedding a tear, shouting when you are angry or talking it through," he said.

Wolfson was inspired to switch from his master's degree in philosophy to health care administration and just graduated, hoping to work for a nursing home or in patient care.

He and Cook each received $10,000 as part of their Brave Award. Wolfson has used his to offset healthcare costs and the Cooks, who have benefited from Workers' Compensation, have funneled their prize into legislative advocacy for pain management.

Radene Cook said she is forever indebted to her husband for the commitment he has made to her care.

"One thing is that I can look at the sum of this journey in my life -- the plane accident, the end of the scale pain that will never stop and all that has been lost --- and compare it with this life that Doug has made for me, with all the work and his constant love," she wrote to in an email. "And I can truly say that mine is a blessed life and I am one of the luckiest women alive!"

He thinks the same of her. "Luckily for me I've got a wonderful wife," said Doug Cook, "and her attitude is fabulous."

For more information and to nominate a caregiver, go to Shire's Brave Awards.

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